As a single lady, Beyonce declared: If you like it, put a ring on it. But more and more, single ladies aren’t waiting for a ring, or a man. Instead, they’re taking life’s next steps by themselves, for themselves, and that includes home ownership.
But women aren’t the only singles stepping into single-person homeownership. Across both men and women are taking the plunge, making single homeownership is the fastest growing household in Canada. It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing.
There are more considerations, however, when living alone and safety is just one of them. Here are seven tips for making a new home (and neighbourhood) safe for any single homeowner.
1) Meet your neighbours
Even before you buy your condo, townhome or house make an effort to walk the streets and introduce yourself to anyone you meet. Not only will you quickly get a sense as to whether or not people are edgy when approached—a bad sign—but if you do end up buying in the neighbourhood, it could be the start of good neighbourly relations. And you want that because neighbours watch out for neighbours and this creates safer communities.
2) Change your locks
Whenever my parents moved to a home, the first thing my father would do is change the locks. He often travelled for his job and he hated the possibility that someone else with a key to the home could get in while he wasn’t there. What’s amazing is that this policy—of installing new locks—no longer appears to be the norm anymore. Still, if you’re living alone and you bought a resale home or condo you may want to seriously consider changing the door locks. That’s because it’s impossible to know who had access to the condo or house previously, and how many extra keys were cut and distributed. To ensure your protection—and to prevent theft—it’s best to just pay for a new set of locks. It’s not cheap—easily costing $150 or more—but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
3) Now use those locks
Ok. Now that you have shiny new locks on all your doors, it’s time to use them. But don’t stop there. Use your window locks and consider installing safety chains. Crime is often about opportunity—not giving someone an opportunity is your best defence.
4) Get curtains or blinds
I confess, I don’t have blinds or curtains on my living room windows. I love the massive stretch of glass and I can’t stand the idea of blocking out the light. But, when it comes to safety, I’m making a terrible, terrible mistake. Fact is it’s a lot easier for people to see what you have—and if you’re alone—if you don’t have blinds or curtains. And remember birdwatchers aren’t the only people who buy binoculars.
5) Know what to disclose (condo-dweller tip)
When I first started renting an apartment by myself my mother made me promise not to put my full name on the buzzer directory. Now I know why. Not only does putting your full name give important information away to would-be intruders, but it can also alert nosy people to the fact that you live alone. One name, one owner equals easier target. So opt for more cryptic directory entries or use the old fashioned last-name only approach.
6) Get motion detector lights (home-dweller tip)
If you live in a house or townhome, install motion detector lights. These are lights that are triggered to turn on as soon as it detects motion. Studies show that most burglaries occur at homes that have insufficient lighting or hiding places (usually from overgrown bushes) that allow intruders a place to hide.
7) Pretend your spouse is close
This is an old standby stance I’ve used on more than one occasion. Whether it was a Kijiji buyer, or a pizza delivery man, or the furniture movers, I’ve always led them to believe that my spouse (fake or otherwise) is just 5 minutes away. This ruse often starts with me opening the door with the phone to my ear, discussing how far he (or she) is from home. By providing the illusion that I’m expecting company, I truly believe that it’s helped to prevent me from being a target.
These are just a few suggestions to help you stay safe when you live alone. There are countless other things you can do, but at the end of the day it’s about using common sense, exercising caution, and being aware of what—and who—is around you at all times.
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